It has been fairly quiet on the transfer and rumour front at Luton Town as the January transfer window nears its mid-point, and whilst there is an expectation that there is not much to do, you would expect that transfer activity at Kenilworth Road will pick-up.
Here, ORH team members Alex Oakhill, Billy Mulley and Finley Cannon answered four January-related questions as it remains to be seen how busy of a month it will be...
Looking at the current squad, what area of the pitch do we need to address as a priority?
AO: For me the priority has to be centre back, as a result of the situation with Tom Lockyer. Whilst Mengi and Osho have been two of our best players this season, the third centre half has been a position of slight concern. Ideally, a fully fit Reece Burke plays alongside the Mengi-Osho pairing, but as proved his injury record cannot be trusted. Bell has been inconsistent at times, and there has been a few too many mistakes for my liking. I also like the idea of something slightly different up top, not to replace Adebayo or Morris but just to offer a bit of variety. This would only be if the right player was found however, which could be a difficult task in the January window.
BM: I do not think we are in a bad position at all but I do expect there to be some business. Whilst the Oscar Zambrano saga appears to have taken centre stage, at least in the eyes of the media, the holding midfield position is not what I see as a priority. For me, it is the central defensive position that is in need of bolstering the most. That does not stem from a lack of trust in current options but it is more of a reflection of the number of backline injuries we have suffered, and with Tom Lockyer also unavailable, could the Hatters benefit from a commanding defensive presence?
I like the idea of scanning the market for a permanent right-back/right-wing-back during this January window, and that is not a dig at Issa Kabore. Without dragging players away from the positions they are most effective in, the Manchester City loanee could do with competition. The only potential dilemma with this is that the January window is renowned for its premium pricing of players. For a club eager to stick to its impressive ways of operating from a budgeting standpoint, this could prove difficult.
FC: For me the number one target has to be a centre back to add depth. Ideally it would be someone who can play in the middle of the 3, although I still have faith that Andersen could be the one there.
If we aren’t looking at a centre back I think we should pursue someone who can play at right back/right wingback, particularly with Kabore at AFCON. I think that area has been a bit of an issue and Kabore can be a bit questionable at times despite big improvements. A permanent deal for someone more long term would be great but we have to be realistic in the January window.
How many signings are you anticipating during what remains of this current window?
AO: I think the number of incomings is dependent on who leaves this January. It’s always a difficult time to get deals over the line so you can’t expect too much in this window. However, we could see two or three come through the door at Kenilworth Road, maybe a couple with some Premier League experience along with a youngster as we look towards the future. As always though I trust the board to not make any rash decisions and panic buy any players we don’t need.
BM: As mentioned above, the fact that we are not in a bad place means I am not expecting too much on the arrival front. With relegation back down to the Championship obviously a very real possibility, this could be an opportunity to use our Premier League status to our advantage and look to lure more youthful talent to Kenilworth Road.
I will go for 3 new arrivals before the window slams shut at the end of this month.
FC: I anticipate we’ll make a maximum of two additional signings. We could do with at least one more player with some premier league experience as I think the squad is really benefiting from Barkley and Townsend and their know how.
How many player departures are you expecting? Who do you expect to leave?
AO: The likes of Potts, Berry and Woodrow have all struggled to even find a place on the bench, so I’d imagine two, or maybe all three will depart. At this stage, there is no time for sentiment, despite the amazing servants some of our longer serving players have been. If we are going to give survival a real shot, then we need to make sure we have a full squad capable of making a difference for the run in.
BM: Of course, the number of incomings (or planned incomings) will play a large part in how many, and who might depart. There are a group of players in Dan Potts, Luke Berry and Cauley Woodrow who I could see leaving if a suitable offer was to come in, but I don’t think we will be actively seeking their exits.
I do not think we are at risk of losing any integral first-teamers either. Obviously, the likes of Ross Barkley, Teden Mengi, Gabe Osho and Alfie Doughty have consistently shown high quality during the first part of the campaign, however, the summer window will be the one that we might have to be more concerned.
FC: I imagine only two or three players will leave the club. I can’t see Pepple ever getting into the first team and he could very well be on his way out. As much as I love Dan Potts, I’m not sure he has much left to give for Luton, particularly given his injury record and he could well be on his way out to a league one club where he could be a real solid addition.
Who is your ideal January target?
AO: Before the window opened, I would’ve said Zambrano was my ideal signing. However, the more the saga has rumbled on, the less likely it looks that the Ecuadorian will be making his way to Bedfordshire. Instead, I would be looking at another Barkley/Townsend-esque signing to really bring in some Premier League experience for the run in. Michael Keane has been struggling for minutes at Everton, and would fill the Tom Lockyer shaped hole in the Hatters’ defence. Whether the Toffees would be willing to let such an experienced player leave to another Premier League team is a different question, but Keane would certainly bring something to our back line with over 200 top flight appearances.
BM: I will do you one better, I’ll give you two names!
The first name is perhaps slightly more unrealistic because I imagine Sunderland would hold a rather hefty valuation but centre-back Daniel Ballard, in my eyes, has all the makings of a top-quality defender and has proven that in the Championship in recent seasons. A very capable ball-playing central defender, who progressed through the academy ranks at Arsenal, he has since developed from a physicality standpoint in the Championship, embarking on a successful loan spell at Millwall, and now thriving on Wearside. He arrived at the SoL for £2 million in the summer of 2022, penning down a 3-year deal (club possess the option of triggering a further year), meaning Sunderland are likely to hold a high asking price.
The second player is Viking FC centre-back David Brekalo, who emerged on the club’s radar in the summer. It was revealed that the Norwegian club held a high asking price at the time because they were deep in a fight for a European spot, however, with that now over and Brekalo possessing less than two years on his current deal, the 25-year-old could be available for a much more favourable price. Aggressive and dominant within his defensive responsibilities, comfortable with the ball at his feet and a commanding presence, he could be exactly the kind of player that continues Town’s survival push.
FC: My ideal January target would be Cameron Carter-Vickers, although he has had injury struggles this year and we don’t want another injury prone defender.
Alternatively I would be happy to see Connor coady come in. He’s struggling for game time in a young Leicester city team and he has years of experience. His ability to play in the centre of a back three and his leadership would be a hugely valuable asset to the side.